One of the things I’ve come to loathe in modern MMOs is the item grind and the lack of attachment that comes with it. In World of Warcraft, I don’t care at all about my items because the chances are pretty high that I’m going to replace them soon. It might be a couple of days, or a few hours, or more often than I would like just a matter of minutes. I recall one day in particular where I upgraded my character’s pants seven times in just two hours of play. I probably could have kept any one of those since each upgrade was just a couple of points, from 120 armor to 122 or 8 strength to 9 or adding a stat bonus the previous pants didn’t have, but I felt no attachment to any of those pants. They’d been so easy to obtain that the stats were all that mattered.
And the appearance, but when the game practically forces you to look like a rodeo clown trying to maintain a cohesive and good look is practically futile.
In my perfect MMO, character stats would be on a smaller scale. No more crazy strength of 874. There would be a cap, 100 is a nice number, but then I’ve always had a soft spot for the old table top D&D standard of 25. With a smaller scale, a single point increase from a magic item would have noticeable impact. Magic items would then be more rare. In fact, I’d probably place true magic items only at the end of long quests, coming from incredibly hard boss mobs (assuming the game even had them) or through the arduous labors of master craftsmen. The obtaining of a magic item would be a story you could tell. Rather than “Yeah, I got these gloves from delivering pies from Joe to Stewart.” your story would be more along the lines of “Well, about three weeks ago, I undertook a small task for the local sheriff…” and spiral off into a series of deeds and fights or harrowing escapes. More importantly, those magic gloves would take a long time to replace, if ever.
Over the long haul, your character would become a graphic representation of the stories you could tell, instead of a collection of the best gear you’ve obtained lately.
I think this desire, this design, springs from the years I played EverQuest as a monk. In the early days, a monk could barely wear any gear, and he was 70% effective even naked since his gear was so weak and he fought without weapons. Thus, every item that I wore was something I obtained through playing the game. Some of it from long quest chains, some of it, later, from slaying dragons and other rare and dangerous beasts, from invading the planar homes of the gods, crafted by dear friends using rare materials obtained through adventure. Even as the game changed and the design encouraged monks to wear more gear, and more monk wearable gear became available, I’d been playing one way so long that I continued. Every item I carried was a story. The Treant Fists were a tale of a lost weekend in the Gorge of King Xorbb, the headband of the Ashen Order and the sash of the Silent Fist that eventually lead to the Robe of the Whistling Fists and the Celestial Fists, the Iksar shackles, the Shiverback Hide armor, and so much more.
I’d love to see a game, or perhaps I’ll have to make one, where I actually care about my gear beyond the numbers it increases.